Acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs) are trimeric cation-selective proton-gated ion channels expressed in the central and peripheral nervous systems. The pore-forming transmembrane helices in these channels are linked by short loops to the palm domain in the extracellular region. Here, we explore the contribution to proton gating and desensitization of Glu-79 and Glu-416 in the palm domain of ASIC1a. Engineered Cys, Lys, and Gln substitutions at these positions shifted apparent proton affinity toward more acidic values. Double mutant cycle analysis indicated that Glu-79 and Glu-416 cooperatively facilitated pore opening in response to extracellular acidification. Channels bearing Cys at position 79 or 416 were irreversibly modified by thiol-reactive reagents in a state-dependent manner. Glu-79 and Glu-416 are located in β-strands 1 and 12, respectively. The covalent modification by (2-(trimethylammonium)ethyl) methanethiosulfonate bromide of Cys at position 79 impacted conformational changes associated with pore closing during desensitization, whereas the modification of Cys at position 416 affected conformational changes associated with proton gating. These results suggest that β-strands 1 and 12 contribute antagonistically to activation and desensitization of ASIC1a. Site-directed mutagenesis experiments indicated that the lower palm domain contracts in response to extracellular acidification. Taken together, our studies suggest that the lower palm domain mediates conformational movements that drive pore opening and closing events.